30 Of The Greatest US Presidents According To Political Experts

OMG February 15, 2019 By Hugo

Loathed and revered more than anywhere else in the world, American presidents are very much the Guardians of the Free World, entrusted with not only making their country even more prosperous but also aiding fellow allies and nations of a less wealthy disposition grow and develop. 

Wikipedia/Francis Bicknell Carpenter

So as it's President's Day, we thought we'd shed light on some of the most popular presidents of all time according to political scientists who have ranked each president on a scale of 0-100. To do this, the sample of scholars from the American Political Science Association were asked to rate each president from failure (zero) to average (50) to great (100).

If you disagree with the list, be sure to let us know who else should have been included in the comments below.


30. George W. Bush

Wikipedia/ Crag Michaud

Until Donald Trump came along, George Walker Bush was argubally one of America's most maligned presidents in recent memory following his controversial stance on terrorism and involvement in the Iraq War. 

George W.Bush was the 43rd President of the United States from 2001 to 2009 having previously held the coveted position of Governor of Texas from 1995 to 2000. The father of another former president, George Bush Sr,  George W.Bush was raised in New Haven, Connecticut where he would attend the nearby Ivy League College, Yale University. Now a keen painter and a vocal opponent of Donald Trump, George W. Bush's image has undoubtedly improved in recent years, something that didn't seem possible when he departed office as one of America's least popular leaders following Barack Obama's victory over the late John McCain in 2008. 


29. Rutherford Birchard Hayes

Wikipedia/ Upstatenyer

Hayes served as the 19th President of the United States from 1877 to 1881. When sworn in, Hayes declared that he would only serve one term. It was a heightened period to be president because of the ongoing issues regarding slave ownership in the south, something Rutherford opposed in all facets. 

A former American representative and governor of Ohio. Hayes's life before he was president saw him rise the ranks and become one of America's foremost lawyers who represented refugee slaves in courts of laws during the antebellum years. A firm believer in political meritocracy as opposed to a system governed by race, Hayes's progressive viewpoints on race, class divides and social injustices were ahead of their time.


28. Calvin Coolidge

Wikipedia/ National Photo Company Collection

One of the main reasons John Calvin Coolidge Jr. is so revered in liberal quarters is because of the bill he signed granting Native Americans U.S. citizenship. He was also a proponent of the Ku Klux Klan at a time where it wasn't unheard of for presidents to hold meetings with its leading members. 

The 30th President of the United States also wanted to make lynching a federal crime. Despite his quiet demeanor (he was known by close associates as Silent Cal) he was an efficient and productive president, who got things done in the best manner possible.


27. Martin Van Buren

Wikipedia/ Daniel Huntington

The Little Magician, otherwise known as Martin Van Buren, served as the eighth President of the United States from 1837 to 1841 and was one of the leading founders of the Democratic Party. Buren had also served as the eighth Vice President of the United States before his succession to the presidency.

A shrewd politician with a burning will to get legislation passed through Congress, Buren couldn't be faulted for his lack of trying but ultimately came undone by a period of financial panic when the stock market crashed. He did not win a second term.


26. Jimmy Carter

Wikipedia/ Schumacher, Karl H

James Earl Carter Jr. served as the 39th President of the United States from 1977 to 1981 and remains a beloved figure in American society. Now 93 and still as fit as a fiddle,  the former Democratic president got his start in politics by serving as a Georgia State Senator from 1963 to 1967 and then as Governor of Georgia from 1971 to 1975.

A humble man who said of his presidency that he was "proud of keeping the peace and supporting human rights" now resides in a $167,000 home in Rural Plains, Georgia that he helped build.


25. Gerald Ford

Wikimedia/Robert L. Knudsen

Gerald Rudolph Ford Jr. was the 38th President of the United States who served as president from August 1974 to January 1977. Like Martin Van Burren, Ford also served as Vice President, becoming the 40th Vice President of the United States from December 1973 to August 1974.

A respected Republican president heralded with restoring faith in the presidency following the Watergate scandal; Ford famously declared on his inauguration, "I assume the Presidency under extraordinary circumstances…This is an hour of history that troubles our minds and hurts our hearts.”


24. Grover Cleveland

Wikipedia

Stephen Grover Cleveland was a former lawyer who would go on to become the 22nd and 24th President of the United States. The only president in history to have been elected for two non-consecutive terms, Grover Cleveland was elected president in 1884 but failed to win a second term despite winning the popular vote.

Undeterred from the setback, Cleveland ran again in 1892 and won the necessary electoral college votes to be president again.


23. John Quincy Adams

Wikipedia/ Mathew Brady

John Quincy Adams was just the sixth President of the United States when he served a single term from 1825 to 1829. His experience in Washington before the presidency saw him act as the eighth United States Secretary of State. 

This position was under President James Monroe's administration from 1817 to 1825, a period which saw him help negotiate the Adams-Onis Treaty which saw the state of Florida successfully acquired by the United States.


22. William Howard Taft

Wikipedia/ George W. Harris

The 27th President of the United States was often the but of much ridicule over his weight, so much so that a rumor went around that he once got stuck in the White House bathtub!

While many believe that this story supposedly took place it actually did not, and has somehow remained part of American political folklore. Poor Taft!


21. Ulysses S. Grant

Wikipedia/ Thomas Nast

Before Ulysses S. Grant because the 18th president of America from 1969 to 1987, Grant had been an accomplished soldier, international statesman, and prolific author. But Grant's workaholic nature didn't stop when he got the biggest job of all.

In his two-term tenure, Ulysses S. Grant achieved many major accomplishments, one of which saw him lead the Union Army to victory over the Confederacy during the American Civil War.


20. James Polk

Wikipedia/ John Plumbe

James Knox Polk was sworn in as the 11th President of the United States in 1845 having been Speaker of the House of Representatives and Governor of Tennessee. A Democratic Party member and a keen backer of the Jacksonian democracy movement, Polk was certainly a go-getting president.

While his time served didn't yield much in the way of what he intended regarding increased liberty of the individual, he did achieve significant expansion of the country through the Mexican-American War.


19. William McKinley

Wikipedia

William McKinley served as the 25th president from March 4, 1897, until his assassination six months after his re-election in 1891. Before his ill-fated presidency, McKinley served as a private during the Civil War and was commended for his heroism on the battlefield.

After the war, he was a Congressman from 1876 to 1890 and was known for being an ardent protectionist and supporter of fair trading tariffs.


18. James Monroe

Wikimedia/Gwillhickers

James Monroe wasn't only the fifth president of the United States from 1917 to 1825, he was also one of the country's Founding Fathers.

The last president of the Virginia dynasty, Monroe's presidency ushered in what is known as the Era of Good Feelings, a period that marked a stronger sense of unity in the country following the war in 1912.


17. George H.W. Bush

Shutterstock/ Mark Reinstein

A one-term president, George Herbert Walker Bush served as the 41st president of the United States from 1989 to 1993 and also served under the Regan administration as the 43rd vice president of the United States from 1981 to 1989.

A staunch member of the Republican Party, Geroge Bush Sr as he is often called in the media also served as a congressman, and before politics was most famous for his role as a CIA director. However, it was his poor dealing of the Gulf War that would shroud his legacy among liberals.


16. John F. Kennedy

Walt Cisco, Dallas Morning News via Foter.com / Public domain

President John F. Kennedy (JFK) was a popular, if divisive, figure in American politics and had ascended to the highest office in the land off the back of his policies of reform and his endearing charm. However, on November 22, 1963, the President and his wife sat in an open-top car driving through Dallas, Texas as part of a motorcade, where the President was shot at by Lee Harvey Oswald, from a school book depository window.

Taken by the bullet, this is the last known image of JFK alive, and it was the last time a president of the United States would ride in an open top car.


15. Andrew Jackson

Wikipedia/ Edward W. Clay

Like many presidents in the 1800s, Andrew Jackson was an American soldier who would rise up the political ranks and become the seventh president of the United States from 1829 to 1837. A famous general in the United States Army, Jackson also honed his political craft in both houses of Congress before his election as president.

Argubally America's first national war hero and president, Jackson was a key figure that led American forces to overrun the British in the Battle of New Orleans during the War of 1812.


14. John Adams

Wikipedia/ John Turnball

John Adams was another Founding Father who served as the second president of the United States following the presidency of Geroge Washington. Before his career in politics, Adams made a name for himself as a lawyer and diplomat.

Most significant was his role as leader of American independence from Great Britain. For more information about this great man, a terrific titular HBO series chronicling Adams's life and legacy is well worth checking out.


13. Bill Clinton

Shutterstock/ Joseph Sohm

Bill Clinton was a very popular, if not divisive US President whose two terms ended in controversy, However, he remains a massive political force today. With his wife, Hilary Rodham Clinton, the dynamic political power couple has long been heralded as one of America's most powerful couples.

However, their reputation has been tarnished owing to Bill's infidelity and Hilary's 2016 election defeat to the much-maligned 2016 election winner, Donald Trump. Moreover, Bill's willingness to enact the three-strikes law is also viewed unfavorably amongst many political commentators on the left who pin America's incarceration epidemic on that piece of controversial 1994 legislation. 


12. James Madison

Wikipedia/John Vanderlyn

James Madison Jr was another Founding Father who was sworn in as the fourth president of the United States from 1809 to 1817. Celebrated for his instrumental role in establishing the constitution, he is often referred to as the "Father of the Constitution" for his crucial role in planning the United States Constitution and the United States Bill of Rights.

After a series of failed attempts to stop British shipping attacks, Madison made the bold move to take his country to war in 1812.


11. Woodrow Wilson

Wikipedia/ G.V. Buck

Thomas Woodrow Wilson was one of America's most heralded wartime presidents and statesmen who served as the 28th President of the United States from 1913 to 1921.

A key pillar in the formation of the League of Nations following Germany's defeat in World War One, Wilson made it his mission as president to improve international peace following some of the worst bloodshed in human history. For his continued effort to build a safer world, Wilson was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in October 1919, making him one of four presidents, along with Theodore Roosevelt, Jimmy Carter and Barack Obama to receive the illustrious award.


10. Lyndon B. Johnson
Wikipedia/ History.San Diego

His abbreviated initials LBJ were usually what Lyndon Baines Johnson (right) went by. Johnson served as the 36th President of the United States from 1963 to 1969 and had also held the vice-presidency from1961 to 1963.

However, because of the unexpected death of President John F. Kennedy, Johnson's vice-presidency was cut short by two years to take the vacant presidency following the tragic events of Kennedy's assasination.


9. Ronald Reagan

Wikipedia/ UTexas

Ronald Wilson Reagan was one of the first celebrities to successfully enter the American political arena when he won the campaign to become the 33rd Governor of California in 1967. A B-list actor who had mostly worked on obscure titles, Regan shifted his attention to the Republican Party in the 60s and 14 years after winning the California Governorship he became the 40th President of the United States.

After being sworn in in 1981, Regan passed a series of supply-side economic policies intended to open up markets and decrease taxes. Comfortably winning a second term, Regan would become one of the most popular presidents in recent memory and was famed for his close working relationship with the British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.


8. Barack Obama

Shutterstock/ Joseph Sohm

Barack Obama became best known to the world as the USA's 44th President and the first African-American to hold the esteemed office and while many are aware of his time as the head of state, fewer know about his life before that.

It's a matter of public record that he was an attorney but outside of that not too much is known. For instance, did you know that one of the most liberal, forward-thinking presidents in recent memory candidly admitted to partaking in recreational drug use in college?


7. Dwight Eisenhower

Wikipedia/ iwm

Dwight David "Ike" Eisenhower was a former American Army general and 34th President of the United States. His two terms came between the years 1953 to 1961. But with all due respect to his presidency, which was neither noteworthy nor bad, it was his efforts in World War Two that cemented his legacy as a true American hero.

A five-star general in the United States Army, Eisenhower would go on to be tasked with the responsibilities as Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Forces in Europe.


6. Harry S. Truman

Wikipedia/National Archives and Records Administration

After serving as vice president Harry S. Truman was made 33rd President of the United States following the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt. 

A pivotal period in American history, Truman went about finishing off the work of his successor and quickly implemented the Marshall Plan in a bid to restore Western European commerce, He was also responsible for the Truman Doctrine and NATO.


 5. Thomas Jefferson
Wikimedia/Rembrandt Peale

It seems Founding Fathers are very popular with political scientists for obvious reasons and Thomas Jefferson is just one of many American Founding Fathers to make the top 30. The leading author of the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson would eventually flex his democratic muscles and put them to more practical use by becoming the third President of the United States from 1801 to 1809.

He had previously served as the second Vice President of the United States under John Adams's leadership from 1797 to 1801.


4. Theodore Roosevelt

Shutterstock/ Everett Historical

Despite a passion for war and armed conflict, 26th President of the United States Theodore Roosevelt experienced no wars during his time in office and is often considered one of America's best peacetime presidents.

Also an accomplished writer and statesman, Roosevelt first made waves in political circles when he won the Governorship of New York in 1899.


3. Franklin Delano Roosevelt

Wikipedia/ National Archives and Record Adminstration

Franklin Delano Roosevelt became famous for taking to the radio and addressing the nation in a calming voice during a period when Americans were going through unprecedented suffering owing to the Great Depression.

One of only two men to follow in their father's footsteps and become president, the other being George W. Bush, Roosevelt became the 33rd President of the United States when elected in 1933 until his passing in 1945.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt was also the only president to be elected four times following the success of his New Deal. But when a ratified 22nd Amendment in 1951 came into play, the presidency was limited to two terms.


2. George Washington

Wikipedia/ Stuart Williamson

As the first President of the United States, it is hardly surprising that George Washington polled second in the list of the most important presidents in the history of America.  Not only a political leader, Washington was also a military general, statesman, freemason and most importantly of all, a Founding Father who debuted the presidency.

Washington also held the highest rank in the Continental Army in the American Revolutionary War and was a leading light in overcoming resilient British forces and helping his fellow comrades to victory in the American Revolution.


1. Abraham Lincoln

Wikipedia/Francis Bicknell Carpenter

John Wilkes Booth's killing of Abraham Lincoln was the first time a president was successfully assassinated. Others had tried with previous presidents, but their efforts were to no avail.

All trivia aside, Abraham Lincoln takes the top spot for many reasons, but it was no doubt his sweeping reforms that led to the emancipation of slavery in the South that gave Lincoln the personal accolade of America's Greatest President. 

The 16th President of the United States, Lincoln served as president from March 1861 until his assassination in April 1865. A bright light in the dark doldrums of of the American Civil War effort, Lincoln took America by the reigns and steered it through one of its most challenging political crises of the 1800s. A true icon. 


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